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Brussels, 2 December 2002

Double-blow to tobacco: Byrne welcomes political agreement on cigarettes advertising ban and smoking prevention measures

Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne called it a "double-blow against Big Tobacco". Today the Council reached political agreement on a new tobacco advertising directive and adopted a far-reaching recommendation on the prevention of smoking and on initiatives to improve tobacco control. "This is another nail in the coffin of the tobacco industry. The combined effect of the directive and the recommendation on tobacco prevention brings us very close to a complete ban on advertising of tobacco products", David Byrne said. Member States will have to comply with the Directive by 31 July 2005 at the latest.

"This united position of the Council, the Parliament and the Commission sends a clear signal to the public. The Council of Ministers has today hit the tobacco industry where it hurts. In the European Union alone, Big Tobacco needs to recruit 500,000 new smokers each year to replace the ones who die prematurely due to smoking-related diseases. The measures on which we agreed today will make it more difficult for them to do that", David Byrne added.

The new directive and its legal base

The Commission presented its proposal for a directive on tobacco advertising and sponsorship in May 2001 (see IP/01/767). The new directive takes full account of the judgement of the European Court of Justice of October 2000 annulling a previous directive on tobacco advertising. The Court found that the initial directive, which imposed a near total ban on all forms of tobacco advertising and sponsorship, exceeded the limits of what the EU could do using its internal market powers. However, the Court's judgement clearly stated that Article 95 (Internal Market) of the EC Treaty could, in principle, be used as the legal basis for a directive laying down a more limited ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship. The new proposal adheres strictly to the limits laid down by the Court. The EP supported the Commission's proposal in its First Reading on 20 November 2002 (see IP/02/1716).

The directive is important for the Internal Market. All Member States have adopted national rules to regulate the advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products. These regulations vary considerably between Member States. This divergence has been exacerbated by the annulment of the previous Directive. This gives rise to increasing barriers to the free movement between Member States of products and services that serve as support for such advertising and sponsorship. The new directive aims to eliminate these barriers by harmonising the rules relating to the advertising of tobacco products and related sponsorship to the extent possible in the light of the Court's ruling.

It foresees a general ban on tobacco advertising in the press. This is an important vector for tobacco promotion, and one that has strong cross-border implications. The proposal also includes a ban on tobacco advertising on the internet. Advertising of tobacco products via radio and the sponsorship of radio programmes by tobacco companies will also be banned, on the same lines as television advertising under the Television without frontiers directive. Finally, the proposed directive deals with sponsorship banning this for events or activities with cross-border implications by 31 July 2005 at the latest.

Recommendation on Smoking Prevention

"The Commission's proposal for a Council Recommendation on Smoking Prevention is another cornerstone in the European Union's tobacco control policy", said David Byrne. The measures proposed in the recommendation complement the provisions of the tobacco products directive, adopted by the EP and the Council in June 2001, and the tobacco advertising directive (see IP/02/873).

The Recommendation foresees measures to reduce the availability and supply of tobacco products to children and adolescents. The messures include restricting the access of children and adolescents to tobacco vending machines and to tobacco distance and internet sales; removing tobacco products from self service displays; preventing the sale of cigarettes in (cheaper) packages of fewer than twenty; and requiring vendors of tobacco products to verify that purchasers have reached the age limit set in national laws. Moreover, it calls on Member States to adopt measures aimed at avoiding that certain forms of advertising and promotion for tobacco products reach children and adolescents (such as the use of tobacco brand names on non-tobacco merchandises, clothes or services; the distribution of promotional items; the use of outdoor billboards and posters and the use of cinema advertising). It also calls on Member States to oblige tobacco manufacturers to disclose the expenditure they incur on advertising, marketing, sponsorship and promotion campaigns; to provide adequate protection from exposure to passive smoking at the work places, in enclosed public places and in public transport; and to strengthen smoking prevention programs.

The Commission will monitor and report on the implementation of the Recommendation in the Member States and at Community level.

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